Posts Tagged ‘Private Healthcare Companies’

Starmer Is Silent on the Tories’ Privatisation of the NHS

July 12, 2021

More evidence of the absolute absence of any real, traditional Labour values from the noxious vacuity now taking up space as the leader of the Labour party. Mike put up a piece a day or so ago commenting on a tweet someone sent to Starmer asking him if he was going to vote against the government’s latest legislation opening the NHS up to further privatisation, allowing private healthcare companies to sit on NHS boards and take over GPs’ surgeries. In areas where this has been tried, it’s been a disaster. Those companies can only make profit by cutting staff and services, so you can far worse treatment. This isn’t up for debate, it’s true. It also seems to mark the transition to a two-tier health service: an under-resourced, substandard state sector for the proles while the rich will go to the better private service, which only they can afford. Assuming that it doesn’t result in the NHS being totally privatised and transformed into an American-style healthcare system, which is financed through private healthcare with medicare and medicaid, state-payed healthcare existing only for the poor.

So how did the great leader, who would unify the party and defend the Health Service respond to this vital question? He didn’t. He didn’t reply at all. Major indecision, as Johnson calls him, struck again! Or worse – it’s a tactical silence, because he won’t. The Tories have been privatising the Health Service piecemeal since Thatcher, but Blair when he took power went further than they did. Blair was responding to lobbying by American healthcare companies, including some of the same companies and scumbags who’d been lobbying and drafting policies for the Tories. He created the Community Care Groups of doctors, who were supposed to control the funding for the doctors’ surgeries of which they were in charge. They were also given the ability to raise money privately outside NHS funding and to buy in services from the private sector. It was also Blair’s idea to have the polyclinics or health centres he was building run by private healthcare companies. Alan Milburn, his health secretary, would have liked to have turned the NHS into a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And Starmer and his squalid followers are true Tory blue Blairites. It seems that despite his election videos in which he promised to defend the NHS at the last elections, he has absolute no such intentions. He’ll betray the NHS to get the votes of all those swing Tories Blair lusted after. But Blairism is a spent force. The Tory voters ain’t coming over to the Labour not when Johnson appears to be prepared to spend more to keep Britain at least somewhat above water. Johnson’s getting reviled for it by the extreme right too. There’s an anti-immigrant YouTube channel, We Got A Problem, that put up a video a few days ago denouncing Johnson as a Communist! This showed the Tory flame or tree or whatever against a red background with a hammer and sickle. This shows you how utterly removed from reality the Tory right are. The result of this is that some people are definitely going to vote Tory, while traditional Labour voters will stay home because Starmer is, like Blair, doing absolutely nothing for the working class. But hey, he’s aiming to get more support from corporate donors!

The debate’s on Wednesday. We have to do everything to defend the NHS. And that means getting rid of both the real Tories in parliament and the imitators in the Labour party. Let’s end privatisation and

Get that greedy, profiteering, factionalist disgrace Starmer out!

Protests Planned Saturday against the Privatisation of the NHS

June 29, 2021

I went to an amazingly great pro-NHS zoom meeting last night organised, I think, by the anti-NHS privatisation organisations We Own It and/or Keep Our NHS Public. The speakers included Dr. Louise Irvine and Antonio Perez-Iranzo, a Spanish doctor working in the NHS, who described how Centene, the private health care company that’s being given positions on NHS boards and allowed to take over doctors’ surgeries, has managed to wreck healthcare in his home country. They were so terrible that eventually the Valencian government was forced to take the service back inhouse and kick them out. Rabina Khan, a Lib Dem councillor in Tower Hamlets, talked about her experience of the poor service they delivered when they took over the traditional GP’s surgery at which she was a patient. She was particularly concerned about the effect of privatisation on the elderly, and on Black and Bangladeshi women. Another speaker told of the vastly poorer service they gave when they were given NHS contracts and acquired GPs’ surgeries in Nottingham. The final speaker was Jeremy Corbyn, introduced as the ‘best Prime Minister this country never had’. Absolutely. He provided more details on the continuing NHS privatisation, showing his absolutely and unfailing commitment to the great institution created by Nye Bevan. He reminded everyone that one he waved the documents showing this was going to happen in parliament and asked Johnson about it, prime ministerial liar called him a liar. But he was right, and if, anything, understated the case. There was also time given for ordinary folks to ask their questions and give their experiences of the destruction of the NHS by these parasites.

In every case, the story was the same. Centene are given the contracts without warning, over the heads of local people, patients and even other doctors. Notification of the change comes from a bland, corporate letter and people are urged to get on Zoom for further information. This is a problem for older people, those not on the internet or who have problems using it, and people for whom English is not their primary language. Centene is a for-profit American health insurance company. Already big, it became massive in America with the introduction of Obamacare. It states in its corporate literature that it is only interested in making a profit, and that if this doesn’t happen, it will divest itself of those loss-making interests. Louise Irvine stated that, as a doctor, you don’t think of making a profit, even though since the inception of the NHS doctors are actually private businessmen, who contract in to the NHS. The only way to make a profit is to reduce costs. Which means sacking people and actually providing a worse service by reducing the amount of care given. In Nottingham, when Centene took over the service, they dispersed 3,000 of the 11,000 patients in their newly acquired GPs’ surgeries to others.

They are purely in it for the money, the profits of which go outside this country to their American shareholders.

Keep Our NHS Public is planning a demonstration against the privatisation of the NHS In London on Saturday, 3rd July 2021. This also includes issues like patient safety, and pay justice. They are going to assemble outside UCH on Euston Road, NWI at 12.00 before marching to parliament square. There are other protests also planned elsewhere in the country for the same day. Details of them can be found at their website https://keepournhspublic.com/ They also recommended people looking at an essay on this privatisation by a member of the Socialist Health Alliance, whose website is https://sochealth.co.uk.

They are naturally extremely keen for people to join their organisation or set up their own. Whatever we do, we have to organise to show the strength of opposition to this privatisation. They state it will be a long struggle, but people have succeeded in getting contracts taken away from the profiteers Serco, Circle Health and others.

The message is clear: Get rid of Centene and the other private companies profiting from the NHS. Get Boris out, and a proper government in, one committed to ending NHS privatisation.

And that does not include the Labour Blairites, who were as keen to privatise the NHS as their Tory heroes.

We Own It’s Public Zoom Meeting Monday Against NHS Privatisation

June 25, 2021

We Own It is an organisation campaigning for the renationalisation of public industries. It is particularly against the Tories’ ongoing privatisation of the NHS. I got this email from them yesterday about a public zoom meeting they’re organising on Monday against the Tories’ decision to hand over a number of doctor’s surgeries to Centene, a private healthcare company. This is going to be the thin end of the wedge, leading to further GP’s surgeries being privatised unless stopped. The email runs

“Our NHS turns 73 this year. 

As part of this year’s NHS birthday, a coalition of NHS campaign groups – including We Own It – is organising a public meeting on stopping the private takeover of NHS GP surgeries. 

Can you join the online (ZOOM) public meeting at 6pm on Monday, 28th June?

Sign up to attend the public meeting

You may know, David, that Centene, an American healthcare corporation, recently took over 49 NHS GP surgeries. 

This kind of takeover of our NHS GP surgeries shows that the government is intent on putting our NHS into the hands of profiteers. 

This would explain their lack of action to get Centene out.

At the public meeting you will learn more about the danger these takeovers pose to our NHS and also how you can be part of the fightback.

Please join the public meeting whether you are in England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland.

At the meeting you will hear from:

  • Jeremy Corbyn – MP for Islington North (his constituency has a Centene surgery)
  • Dr. Louise Irvine – Keep Our NHS Public
  • Richard Buckwell – Chair Nottingham & Notts Keep Our NHS Public
  • Cllr. Rabina Khan – Tower Hamlets Councillor (Liberal Democrats)

There will also be a speaker from Spain to speak about the effects of Centene in their country.

I want to attend the public meeting
Our NHS was founded on the principle of equality: equal access to healthcare for everyone – from the rich to the poor. 
That is why the NHS was established as a public healthcare system, free at the point of use and funded through general taxation.
Our local GP surgeries are the first point of contact with the NHS for over 80% of us.
But with companies like Centene now getting their hands on our NHS GP surgeries, many of them risk being closed if they are not profitable.
Centene has already closed surgeries in Harlow (Essex), Leicester and Camden for not being profitable. 
And by doing so, they are depriving the communities access to readily available care.
It is so important that we continue to fight back and stop these takeovers.
Sign up to attend the public meeting

As we celebrate the 73rd anniversary of our NHS, your involvement in events like this, David, is so valued. The truth is that without the fight that you have put on over the years, there may no longer be an NHS.

Please sign up to attend the public meeting to stop Centene’s takeover of NHS GP surgeries.

Thank you so much for the incredible work you’ve been doing to protect our NHS.

Cat, Alice, Pascale, Chris, Zana, Johnbosco – the We Own It team

PS: You still have an opportunity to fund action and campaigning against the government’s plan to allow private companies, like Virgin, to sit on ICS boards. Integrated Care Systems (ICS) boards will make decisions about how NHS budgets are spent in our local areas. Sign up to donate £5 a month or whatever you can afford. Every penny helps in the fight to stop this privatisation of our NHS.

Of the speakers, Jeremy Corbyn needs no introduction as the former, and vilely maligned leader of the Labour party, but it will be interesting to hear from a medical doctor, Louise Irvine, and the Spanish speaker about how Centene is wrecking their country’s healthcare system, all in the name of profit.

I haven’t donated to the organisation, but I do intend to go to the Virtual meeting. I think the time is 6.00 – 7.30 pm on Monday, 28th June 2021. If you feel the same, you may also want to do the same to protect this most vital of British institutions.

Email from We Own It for Writing Campaign against Private Healthcare Companies on NHS Boards

June 18, 2021

I had another email on Wednesday from the anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about their efforts to block the further privatisation of the NHS. They’d sent me an email previously explaining that our criminally useless health secretary, Matt Hancock, wants to put private healthcare companies in charge of NHS boards and official bodies. This has already been done in the NHS organisation(s) in charge of Bath and North East Somerset and Swindon and Wiltshire.

This follow-up letter explains the issues, and takes matter further. There are links which take you to a page where you can add your name and create a form letter to be sent to the NHS organisations, who have appointed Virgin to their board, protesting against it. This is in addition to the tug of wars We Own It hoped to organise up and down the country in Friday also as a symbolic protest against this privatisation. They were to feature people pulling against private healthcare companies on the other side. I haven’t seen anything about such protests in the news, so I guess there weren’t many of them. Or perhaps the lamestream media have blocked the coverage. That’s happened with protests before, so I really wouldn’t put it past them. Here’s the email, plus links.

“Virgin Care Ltd has been given a seat on the TOP NHS decision-making body in the region covering Bath and NE Somerset, Swindon AND Wiltshire.

This means it will make decisions about what NHS care is provided locally (and what ISN’T provided). 

If this is allowed in that region, it endangers all of us and sets a precedent for other regional NHS boards – we can’t let this go ahead. WHEREVER you are, email the top local boards now to get Virgin kicked OUT of decisions on your NHS.

Write to demand Virgin are kicked out of our NHS

Matt Hancock’s legislation plans to let private companies on to decision-making boards and we’re seeing this creep in already.

If this is allowed to go ahead in Bath, North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, it’s a really worrying precedent for the new set up of our NHS.

Stop this now by writing to both the new ‘partnership’ board and the old CCG board – the two most important local NHS bodies – to say NO – now.

To say that you don’t want Virgin making decisions about our health service.

That your NHS was founded based on solidarity and a shared want for universal care at the point of need. 

Virgin Care Ltd want profit. Can you join the call that they are kicked off this top regional board, to stop these private companies taking hold of our NHS nationally?

I believe in an NHS run for people not profit

What about the rest of the UK? This decision only affects this region, and this bill will mean disintegration of our NHS in England. Luckily the rest of the UK is not going ahead with these plans YET.

But it is not a good sign for the direction of our NHS. So please write to demand Virgin are kicked off this key regional body in the Bath and North East Somerset area.

Your voice is crucial to winning this fight against privatisation. Thank you.

In solidarity,

Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team”

I’ve joined their campaign and sent a letter of protest against the inclusion of Virgin Care in NHS decision-making in those areas. It is a form letter, and the process is very simple. It really is just a case of following the link and adding your name and email address, etc. But I hope it has some effect and demonstrates to the authorities that we really don’t want beardie Branson and his ilk destroying the NHS and our health for their profit.

Please feel free to do the same if you feel the same way too. 

‘We Own It’ Planning Day of Protest Against Hancock’s NHS Privatisation

June 11, 2021

It seems Matt Hancock and the Tories haven’t given up on their wretched plans to privatise the NHS. The Health Secretary is planning to introduce legislation that will allow private healthcare companies on to the management of NHS organisations. Apparently, this has already happened with Virgin sitting on the board of the NHS in Bath And North-East Somerset. The anti-privatisation organisation We Own It is planning a day of protest against this latest move to break up the health service next Thursday, with symbolic tugs of war taking place between the public and private healthcare companies up and down the country. I got this email from them yesterday.

“Matt Hancock is planning legislation that will let private companies make decisions about our NHS care.

It’s already starting to creep in – Virgin were given a seat on the new NHS body in Bath and Somerset.

You can help to stop this in its tracks by making an impression all across the country with a clear image: this is a TUG OF WAR between you and private companies. 

Will you join in the National Day of Action on July 17th and organise a local ‘tug of war’ stunt to say NO to the private takeover of our NHS?

I will join in the National Day of Action

We think this legislation is coming to parliament quite soon.

So NOW is the time to get organised.

By organising an eye-catching ‘tug of war’ stunt, with private companies on one side ❌and US on the other ✊, you’ll be helping to get the news out and show our collective outrage.

Don’t worry if you’ve never organised an action like this before, we’ve got you covered!

If you want, you can come to a training session and there’s a step by stepp here.

The stunt doesn’t need to be big. It just needs you, a few friends and a rope!

Will you be part in the National Day of Action on July 17th to stop Virgin making decisions about our health and our NHS?

I’ll take part in the Day of Action

The government is trying to put on a spin on this bill, saying it will end privatisation, because they know privatisation of our NHS goes down like a lead balloon.

So it’s VITAL that together we get a huge amount of coverage for the Day of Action.

Find out more about organising for the day, with our handy step by step!

We can support you every step of the way.

What about the rest of the UK? This bill will mean disintegration of our NHS in England. Luckily the rest of the UK is not going ahead with these plans yet.

But it is not a good sign for the direction of our NHS as a whole, long term.

We’ll have action for everyone take on July 17th to say no to this private takeover.

Thank you for being part of this fight. You’re not alone in fighting for our NHS.

In solidarity,

Cat, Zana, Johnbosco, Chris, Alice and Pascale – the We Own It team”

I’m afraid I’m too ill at the moment to take part in this myself, but I’m putting it up in case anyone else wants to get involved.

This is extremely ominous, as it definitely won’t be the end of the privatisation of the NHS, whatever lies Hancock spouts. After it’s gone through, the Tories will find yet another pretext to hand it over to private healthcare companies until it is totally transformed into a fully private, for-profit system like America’s. It has to be fought every step of the way.

Starmer should be doing this, but like the good Blairite he is, when it come to tackling capitalism he’s nowhere to be seen.

Right-Wing Internet Host Belfield Now Pushing for NHS Privatisation

May 7, 2021

It’s now the morning after the council and elected mayoral elections that were being held up and down the country yesterday. And to no-one’s surprise, Labour lost the Hartlepool bye-election to the Tories. The media commenters have identified Brexit as the cause of the defeat. For those of us on the left of the party, Brexit was a major factor, but it was also partly due to the shoddy, ineffectual leadership and arrogance of the current leader, Keir Starmer. Starmer parachuted into Hartlepool his preferred candidate, a Remainer, over the heads of local Labour party members, activists and supporters. Mike on Vox Political predicted that this would lead to defeat, and so it did. Because of this, the right-wingers on the Net were putting up videos stating that Labour was insulting Hartlepool’s working people. This was further compounded by the fact that Starmer has been such an ineffective opposition leader, that some people didn’t know who he was. Mahyar Tousi, one of the Brexiteers with arch-Thatcherite views, included a clip from Sky News on his video about Labour in Hartlepool yesterday. This showed Starmer earnestly talking to people. The presenter then stopped a passing woman and asked her if she knew who that man was over there. She didn’t. The presenter told her it was Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party. The woman still didn’t know. So much for Starmer’s glittering leadership.

And it was also yesterday that right-wing internet radio host, Alex Belfield, put up a video openly calling for the NHS to be handed over to private management. This isn’t the first time he’s done this, and I doubt that it will be the last. He’s already put up videos with titles like ‘Private NHS Now’. Belfield is vehemently against the lockdown, which he feels is unnecessary and actually harmful, as it has prevented the elderly in nursing homes being visited and comforted by their relatives. It has also created another crisis in the NHS, as the concentration on the Coronavirus has meant routine operations, examinations and treatment have been postponed to the point that waiting times have increased. Highly vulnerable people, like those suffering from cancer, are going untreated.

This is a terrible problem, and much of it, like the grotesque mishandling of the Coronavirus crisis that has seen well over 100,000 die from the disease, can be put down to Boris Johnson’s ineptitude and his cavalier disregard for human life over the economy. Plus the way the NHS has been run down, starved of funds and partially privatised over the past ten years.

But not to Belfield. The ginger-headed man with the tiny man-sausage, as he has described himself, knows better. He put up a rant yesterday claiming that it was all due to increased bureaucracy and ‘box-ticking Celia Imrie types’. Belfield has a feud going with the BBC, and he never fails to include jabs at that organisation. I don’t know whether he has anything against Celia Imrie, or whether it’s just he’s using the kind of parts she’s played as an example of a certain kind of fussy, totally unnecessary management type. You know, the sort of people the Golgafrinchams put into an ark to send into space and crash on Earth on the grounds that they were ‘a bunch of useless bloody loonies’ according to the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The solution, according to Belfield, is for the NHS to be handed over to private management.

This is no solution, as it is private management that has created this situation.

Jacky Davis and Ray Tallis have comprehensively shown in their book, NHS – SOS, that private enterprise is very definitely not as efficient as state healthcare. It’s actually more bureaucratic, as the US private healthcare companies can spend as much as 40-50 per cent of their income on management and legal issues. A book I bought a few years ago discussing the privatisation of healthcare in places like Canada as well as Britain found that the privatisation of parts of the health service over here had actually increased costs by 6 per cent. Parts of the NHS are being handed over to private management, and the effects are not good. Private enterprise is all about profit, not service, and so we’ve seen the private healthcare chains close down doctors surgeries even though they were needed by local people who were then left without a local GP. At the same time, Tory MPs have been demanding the levying of payments for users of certain NHS services, which are supposed to be free at the point of service.

This is all part of the long-time project of privatising the NHS, and turning it into a for-profit healthcare system like the American.

And Belfield is fully behind it.

Belfield likes to present himself as an ordinary working class lad without a degree, who’s despised by the middle class White liberals. His audience seem to be the middle aged, White working class, who feel left behind, excluded from political representation in favour of ethnic minorities. The kind of people, who voted for UKIP.

But these are exactly the people, who will suffer if Belfield’s political aims are realised. If Belfield and the other Tories have their way and privatise the NHS, it will be the working class – and that includes the White working class – who will struggle to pay for healthcare treatment. It’s already happening now, through hospital and GP closures due to private management. And thanks to the privatisation of the dentists, many people have been struggling for a long time to find dentists, who will take NHS patients.

Belfield may well be a working class lad, but his politics are those of the upper classes, who wish to impoverish and exploit working people.

And that means privatising the NHS, even, or especially, if it harms working people’s health.

They won’t care, so long as it turns a profit.

I’m not going to post his video, but if you want to see it, it’s on YouTube at Booze 🇬🇧 Disaster 🍻 Told Ya 🤦‍♂️ Chickens 🐓 Coming 🍺 Home To Roost 🍷 Price Of Last 14 Months – YouTube

Just remember, it is right-wing, pro-privatisation propaganda.

How Can I Trust Keir Starmer to Protect the NHS When Blair Wanted to Privatise It?

April 9, 2021

The parties have been running their election broadcasts this week in the run up to the local, elected mayoral and other elections in May. I caught a bit of Labour’s the other night, and wasn’t impressed. The piece I glimpsed consisted of Starmer sitting in front of the camera, urging people to vote Labour to protect it from the Tories’ privatisation. And the Tories are privatising the NHS by stealth, all under the cover of bringing in best practice from the private sector. And the Lib Dems have been exactly the same. They were the Tories’ partners in David Cameron’s wretched coalition government, which carried on the privatisations. Nick Clegg did nothing to stop it. Indeed, he gave every assistance to the Tories and seemed to be fully behind the handing over hospitals and doctor’s surgeries to private enterprise to run. Just as the Liberals and SDP were way back in 1987, when the two allied parties had declared that it didn’t matter whether doctors and hospitals were public or private, provided that the treatment was free. Except that the Tory privatisation of the NHS will definitely not retain free treatment at the point of use, as provided by the terms of the NHS’ establishment. The Tories wish to turn the NHS into a fully private system funded by private medical insurance like the American health system.

There are Labour MPs who are fighting tooth and nail to protect the NHS. I’m thinking here of the people on the Labour left, such as Jeremy Corbyn, Richard Burgon, Diane Abbott, Rosina Allin-Khan. I also believe that others from the Labour right are doing so. At one meeting of my constituency party here in south Bristol, our local MP Karen Smyth said she joined the Labour party and became an MP because she was so appalled at what Cameron and co. were doing to the Health Service.

But I find Starmer’s claim that he will protect our NHS much less than credible. He’s an arch-Blairite, who has spent his tenure as leader so far in conjunction with the wretched NEC trying to purge the party of left-wingers and socialists. This has involved all the usual trumped-up, fake charges of anti-Semitism. And sometimes there’s no explanation given at all, like when the NEC barred three of leading Labour contenders for elected mayor of Liverpool. Worse than that, he has broken all of his leadership promises. He claimed that he would continue to uphold Labour’s manifesto promises of returning the utilities to state ownership, reversing the NHS’ privatisation and properly funding it, strengthening the welfare state and workers’ rights and restoring power to the unions. But in practice he hasn’t done any of that. It might put off all those rich donors he’s trying to attract. He has shown no real opposition to Johnson’s government, and what little he has shown has been glaringly opportunistic. So opportunistic, in fact, that right-wing windbag and broadcasting egomaniac, Julia Hartley-Brewer, asked him if there was anything in fact he stood for when he appeared on her wretched show on LBC radio.

And if this isn’t ominous enough, the fact remains that Tony Blair also went ahead with the right-wing programme of privatising the NHS. The polyclinics and health centres Blair set up were opened up to private management. He continued handing over doctors’ surgeries and hospitals to private healthcare firms. And the Community Care Groups, the groups of doctors which were supposed to manage local NHS doctors’ budgets, were granted the ability to buy in services from private sector companies, and raise money from the private sector. His Health Minister, Alan Milburn, wished the NHS to be reduced to a kitemark logo on services provided by private industry. And I fear Starmer will do exactly the same.

Brian Burden, one of the great commenters on this blog, posted this comment noting Starmer’s telling lack of opposition to another Tory appointment.

Hi, Beastrabban –

I refer you to p19 of the April 7 issue of Socialist Worker: Samantha Jones, formerly of Openrose Health, owned by US health insurance giant Centene Corporation, has recently been appointed a top adviser to Boris Johnson. Openrose took over scores of NHS GP surgeries earlier this year. Centene has faced a number of fraud and corruption law suits in USA. Socialist Worker believes that Johnson is moving towards the full privatisation of the NHS. Not a whisper from Starmer about any of this.

I wasn’t aware of this appointment, though I haven’t been paying much attention to the news recently. Not that I think it would be in the news. Ray Tallis and Jacky Davis have a whole chapter in their book, NHS – SOS to how the BBC has supported the privatisation of the Health Service. I’m not a fan of the former Socialist Workers’ Party, but I’ve no doubt they’re correct about this and are right to publicise it. And Starmer’s silence is telling.

I doubt very much that Starmer’s serious about protecting the NHS. And everyone else seems determined to privatise it with the exception of the much-reviled Labour left.

So forget the vile propaganda and smears against them and support the real people of principle who are standing up for this most precious of British institutions.

Private Eye: Tony Abbott Part of Free Trade Group Wanting to Sell NHS to Americans

September 10, 2020

This fortnight’s Private Eye for 11th -24th September has a very ominous story about new Brexit adviser’s Tony Abbott’s attitude to this country’s single greatest institution, the NHS. He’s part of a free trade group run by the extreme right-wing Tory MP, Daniel ‘Lyin’ King’ Hannan, which wants to privatise the NHS. The article ‘Rough Traders’ runs

Britain’s controversial new trade adviser Tony Abbott, ex-Australian PM, is also on the advisory board of a right-wing British “free trade” group that wants to open the NHS to US competition in a future trade deal.

Abbott, appointed to the government’s new Board of Trade last week, joined the Initiative for Free Trade, a think tank set up by keen Brexiteer and former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, in 2017. International trade scretary Liz Truss has co-opted Hannan on to her new Board of Trade alongside Abbott, making clear the official sympathy for Hannan’s think tank (whose launch in 2017 was graced by a certain Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary).

So what kind of Brexit does these two gung-ho free marketeers now advising the government actually want? In September 2018, their Initiative for Free Trade jointly published an “Ideal US-Uk Free Trade Agreement” with the Cato Institute, a right-wing US think tank. Its proposed deal “should open all government procurement markets to goods and services providers” from either country; and it said explicitly: “Health services are an area where both sides would benefit from openness to foreign competition” – meaning the NHS, its hospitals and drug purchasing should be fully open to US firms. It accepted the NHS was a political hot potato – “We recognise any changes to existing regulations will be extremely controversial” – and so suggested a stealthy approach whereby “the initial focus should be on other fields such as education or legal services” before health, so “negotiators can test the waters and see what is possible”.

The paper from Abbott and Hannan’s think tank also said the UK should get ready to eat US chlorinated chicken and hormone enhanced beef; and any deal should avoid “restrictions based on scientifically unsubstantiated public health and safety concerns”. And provisions on workers’ rights and environmental protections? Yes: any deal should avoid these too.

Much of the objections to Abbott’s appointment have concentrated on his own personal failings – his racism, sexism and homophobia. He comes across as personally obnoxious, the living embodiment of Barry Humphries’ character, Sir Les Patterson, the Australian cultural attache. More serious is his sheer incompetence. He was in office for two years before his own party gave him the heave-ho, and then lost his safe seat to an independent.

But this is what really scares me. He and his buddy Hannan really do want to sell off the NHS. Hannan’s been promoting this for a very long time, so it’s no surprise from this direction. They’re going to do it by stealth, which also comes as no surprise, as that’s what they’ve been doing for the past forty years or so. And the Americans have been very heavily involved in all this. Johnson and the Tories have already included the NHS in their talks with the Americans, and one their best to kept it secret. They’re trying to pass further legislation to keep the negotiations as a whole under wraps, so we can’t see that this is what they’re doing.

And to cap it all, they’re determined to feed us chlorinated chicken, hormone injected beef, and wreck the environment and further degrade workers’ rights. Because this is what free trade American capitalism is all about – feeding people dodgy food, wrecking the planet and making sure there are no penalties for workers’ sick or injured at work.

Get Abbott out of the Brexit negotiations. Get private industry out of my NHS. And get the Tories out of office!

Should I Send the Labour Party a Copy of My Book ‘For A Workers’ Chamber’ as a Policy Suggestion?

September 3, 2020

I got an email from the Labour Party, of which I am a member, the other day asking if I had any policy suggestions. They’ve been holding various policy reviews for a few months now since Keir Starmer took over as leadere, and have sent at least one of these appeals for suggestions before. I can think of two policies I could suggest, one very serious, the other rather more far-fetched.

The first would be an end to the privatisation of the NHS. No further contracts should be given to private hospitals or healthcare companies. No expansion of the number of charges that Tory legislation permits for NHS services. An absolute end to the Private Finance Initiative and the construction of NHS hospitals in partnership with private companies. No handover of doctors’ surgeries or NHS hospitals to private healthcare companies to manage. If people want to pay for their healthcare, fine, but the NHS should not under be sold off to private enterprise, for them to charge us for it as so many Tories, including Dido Harding’s husband, would like.

That’s the very serious one. The other one is a piece of utopian political theorising I wrote two years ago, and published with the print on demand company Lulu. I was furious with the corruption of parliament by corporate interests. It was reported that something like 77 per cent of MPs are millionaires, and that both Houses are packed with the owners and senior officers in private enterprise. Under the corporatism of the late 20th and early 21st century capitalist penetration of politics, private firms now grant donations to parties and individual politicos, and sponsor events and conferences. In return, senior staff and directors are taken on by government as advisors, or put in charge of government departments and committees. Legislation is framed not for the benefit of the community, but for big business. This has occurred not just under the parties of the right, like the Republicans in America and the Tories here in Britain, but also in the Democrats and the British Labour Party under Tony Blair. See George Monbiot’s excellent dissection of it and its consequences in Captive State, and Rory Bremner’s, John Bird’s and John Fortune’s You Are Here. The working class is being shut out of power, even in the very party that was founded to represent it.

For A Workers’ Chamber was my suggestion for combating this by setting up within parliament a separate chamber to represent working people, organised according to industry, and whose members would consist of workers from those industries. Not managers or directors, workers. I based it on arguments for a parliament for working people that had been around since the early Socialists and Chartists in the 19th century. The blurb for my book runs

For a Worker’s Chamber argues that a special representative chamber composed of representatives of the working class, elected by the working class, is necessary to counter the domination of parliament by millionaires and the heads of industries.

It (t)races the idea of worker’s special legislative assemblies from Robert Owen’s Grand Consolidated Trade Union, anarchism, syndicalism, Guild Socialism, the workers’, soldiers’ and peasants’ councils in Revolutionary Russia, Germany and Austria, the Utopian Socialism of Saint-Simon and the Corporativism of Fascist Italy. It also discusses the liberal forms of corporativism which emerged in Britain during the First and Second World Wars, as well as the system of workers’ control and producer’s chambers in Tito’s Yugoslavia.

It argues that parliamentary democracy should not be abandoned, but needs to be expanded to includ(e) a worker’s chamber to make it more representative.

Of course, such a chamber wouldn’t be necessary if we had a Labour Party that took its job seriously and actually stood for working people rather than corporate interests. There was hope with the election of Jeremy Corbyn, but that’s been severely damaged, if not destroyed completely in many people’s eyes with the election of Keir Starmer. Starmer’s a Blairite neoliberal, who appears to be reversing all the policies agreed and presented in Labour’s last election manifesto. It says so much about the corporate corruption of the party that the Groaniad announced without any shame whatsoever a few weeks ago that the corporate donors, who had stopped funding the party under Corbyn, were now returning under Starmer. Corbyn had transformed Labour into the largest socialist party in Europe, and had raised money not through corporate donations and sponsorship, like Blair, but through ordinary members’ subscriptions. Blair’s and Brown’s determination to cater to big business and turn to winning middle class votes actually lost them working class support, a portion of whom instead turned to UKIP.

And now this seems set to return under Starmer.

So, should I try to be a bit provocative and send my book and its demand for a special chamber of parliament for the workers to the Labour Party as a suggestion for their policy review?

Just Who Is Responsible for the Tory Downgrading Algorithm?

August 17, 2020

Mike and Zelo Street have both put up excellent articles tearing apart the Tories in England for their massive class bias and signal incompetence over the ‘A’ level exam results. Yeah, Boris and his cabinet of grotesquely overprivileged ex-public school boys and girls are now doing a screeching U-turn, but this in response to the massive public outcry and dissatisfaction from their own benches. The public is getting the message that the Tories hate everyone below the centre middle classes. The Tories really  believe that the best opportunities and places right across society from industrial management, the arts, education and science, housing, healthcare, leisure and just about anything else they can get their hands on should go to the wealthy children of the upper and upper middle classes. The people, who have received exorbitantly expensive private educations at the elite schools. The same people, who, non-coincidentally, supply a good few of the Blairite MPs in the Labour Party and the Blairites and Liberals, who attacked Corbyn’s Labour Party in what passes for the left-wing press, most notably the Groan, Absurder, and the I. The lower orders – the working and lower middle classes – are there to work in the manual trades and in the lower grade office work. But despite all the loud Tory braying about creating a classless England, a meritocracy where anyone can rise from the humblest origins through talent and hard work, the reality is that the Tories are staunchly behind the traditional British class system.

Owen Jones has a very revealing anecdote about how naked this class hatred is behind closed doors. In his book Chavs: the Demonisation of the Working Class, he describes how an unnamed Tory MP, speaking at a university Tory gathering behind closed doors, told his audience, ‘This is class war. And we started it.’ And in the 1990s Private Eye supplied further evidence in their literary reviews. One of these was in Danny Danziger’s Eton Voices, which consisted of a set of interviews with old Etonians. The anonymous reviewer was not impressed, describing just how smug, complacent and self-satisfied they were. One of the interviewees was an Anglican bishop, who confessed to only having respect for other old Etonians. He said that if he found out someone didn’t go to the old school, he felt that it somehow counted against them in some obscure fashion. The Eye’s reviewer wasn’t remotely surprised, and made it clear that they thought that attitude really counted against old Etonians and their school. I don’t think the bias is necessarily conscious either. It’s just there in their whole upbringing, which they imbibe with their mothers’ milk and the very air they breathe.

And because education is one of the keys to social success, the Tories have been keen to use it as a political football and find whatever way they can to stop children from working and lower middle class backgrounds challenging them. There has been survey after survey that has shown that the education ordinary children receive in state schools is actually broader and better, and that they actually outperform their social superiors at university. I’ve remember the results of such studies appearing from the 1990s. But a decade earlier, there were rumblings from the Tories about bring back the 11 +. You remember, the old exam that went out with the comprehensive schools. The one everyone took when they were 11, and which immediately decided whether they went to a grammar school to receive an academic education, or went instead to the secondary moderns to learn a trade. It was scrapped, along with the grammar schools, because it heavily discriminated against working people. They were largely sent to the secondary moderns while the more privileged children of middle class homes got into the grammar schools.

The Tory algorithm looks very much like a similar device, just done through the backdoor. Because in meritocratic, Thatcherite Britain, we’re all supposed to be classless ‘One Nation’ Tories. Well, as Rab C. Nesbitt could remark, they’ve certainly done their job. ‘Cause to paraphrase the great guerrilla philosopher of the underclass, there’s no class in this country any more.

Gavin Williamson is rightly receiving stick for this debacle, and angry parents, teachers and students, not to mention some Tories, are demanding his job. But Zelo Street this evening has asked Carole Cadwalladr’s further question, equally important: who was responsible for the creation of this computer programme in the first place?

He writes

After James Doleman made the obvious point – that Nicola Sturgeon’s swift admission looks better with each passing day, especially as Bozo tried to get away with it, only to be forced to back down – there was only one more question, and that is, as Carole Cadwalladr put it, “Does anyone know who built the algorithm?” Don’t all shout at once.

Because whoever has their paw prints on that part of the fiasco should have some explaining to do, but in a Government where nobody resigns, there won’t be any. But there will be the distinct impression that someone has sanctioned yet another waste of taxpayer funds on a gizmo that caused rather more problems than it solved.

It’s a good question. Zelo Street himself suggests that it might be someone not unconnected to the poisonous Cummings. Well, he is a Social Darwinist, who was prepared to  let the country’s elderly die from the Coronavirus just in order to save the economy. But you also wonder if the company responsible for the algorithm also was connected to the Tories. They’ve had form in giving government contracts to their pet firms, whose management either includes members of the party, or which donates to them. And who have massively failed in their responsibilities. Like the private company that was supposed to take over from the state the provision of PPE to our brave, dedicated and caring medical professionals. Or what about the ‘world-beating’ test and trace programme, which is now being drastically scaled back because it, like the government that commissioned it, isn’t really fit for purpose.

Or is it one of the delightful private companies to which the government have been outsourcing services that should be provided by the state. Companies like Serco, G4S, Maximus, Capita and all the rest that have been delivering failure and rubbish for over thirty years, ever since they were invited in by the Tories in the late ’80s or early ’90s. At one time there was at least one article every fortnight in Private Eye about this clowns. Capita were so incompetent that the Eye awarded them the nickname ‘Crapita’. They started off with contracts to provide IT services, which were just about always behind schedule, over budget and sometimes so dire that they had to be scrapped. But for some reason they failed upwards, and were immediately given more contracts. And the outsourcing companies have gone on to dig themselves further into the infrastructure of government, with worse results. Like ATOS and Maximus manufacturing reasons to throw genuinely disabled people off the benefits they so desperately need, because the Tories and Tony Blair have decided that a certain percentage must be malingerers. The rioting against appalling conditions in our wonderful, privately run prisons and detention centres for asylum seekers. G4S in the ’90s managed to make themselves a laughing stock when a consignment of prisoners they were escorting to trial broke out and escaped. Are these same companies – or  one similar – also responsible for this unjust, odious algorithm?

Zelo Street doubts we’ll ever know the answer. He’s probably right. The Tories are very keen to protect their failures, and would probably argue that the information is too professionally sensitive to be divulged. Just like they’ve done with other private companies involved in government business, like all the private healthcare providers angling for NHS contracts.

This isn’t good enough. Williamson should go, and the company behind the algorithm should be named, shamed and its contract cancelled.

But I very much doubt that the Tories will take that step. Just remember the old saying

‘Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan’.

To which you could add that there are also a fair number of the morally parentless on the Tory benches.

See also: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/benevolent-bozos-badly-bungled-u-turn.html